Proposed agreement could mean changes for juvenile offenders

Oct 28, 2013

A hearing in Kanawha County Circuit Court will determine whether or not juvenile residents of state facilities will see a difference in the way grievances are handled and an increase in educational opportunities.

Judge Omar Aboulhosn confers with counsel during a July hearing in Kanawha County Court.
Credit Ashton Marra

Mercer County Judge Omar Aboulhosn will be presented a proposed agreement between the Division of Juvenile Services and Mountain State Justice, a Charleston based public interest law firm whose lawsuit against the division resulted in the closure of the Salem Industrial Home for Youth and later the Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center.

Lawerence Messina, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said the tentative agreement includes creating a team located in the Charleston central office. That team will be responsible for traveling the state to hear grievances filed by residents.

The team will not be tied to any one facility with the goal, Messina said, of providing an unbiased handling of complaints.

Messina said the agreement will also help ensure the due process rights of residents by offering changes to disciplinary hearings according to standards laid out by the American Correctional Association.

“These are professional industry standards,” he said. “We looked to them for guidance and believe both sides are on the same page.”

DJS will also propose changes to programming offered in its facilities, including additional vocational training for residents who have received either their high school diploma or GED. Messina said the details of those programs are still being discussed.

Aboulhosn will hear the proposed agreement at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Charleston